FOX RIVER GROVE – Thousands flocked to the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove on Sunday to see skiers from across the globe launch off scaffolding, ascend into air and land jump after snowy jump.
Professionals from Canada, Finland, Norway, Slovenia and the United States dazzled fans, who greeted each long distance ski jump with applause, cheers and the rattling of cow bells.
The sight was all too familiar for Charlie Sedivec, who announced the club’s Norge Ski Jump Tournament for the 44th year.
“There’s a uniqueness to the event,” Sedivec said. “We are only the jump in the state of Illinois. We have several members in the hall of fame. ... This year is the highest quality competition we’ve ever had.”
Draped in history, the annual tournament entered its 109th year Saturday with a junior national championship qualifier. Between 3,000 and 6,000 people from across the Chicago area were expected to attend the two-day event, organizers said.
On Sunday, professional skiers of all ages took shots at breaking the longest jump recorded at the club. A Finnish skier set it two years ago by landing an 81-meter jump. A few skiers came close, landing jumps in the 60- and 70-meter range.
Sitting with blankets and winter gear, fans gathered around the club’s main jump site to watch the skiers.
Others roamed around with beer and cigars in hand and visited the vendors at the tournament.
Members from the U.S. Ski Team also competed Sunday for U.S. Cup points, cash and national rankings while on their sixth stop of a national tour that concludes in March at Park City, Utah.
International and U.S. skiers also competed against each other for the Five-Hills Tournament. That tournament runs throughout the Midwest in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and the Norge club.
The winter entertainment and competition all started in 1905, when a group of Norwegian immigrants in Chicago traveled to Fox River Grove and founded the ski club.
The annual Norge ski tournament began during the club’s inaugural year. Members held it in Chicago neighborhoods until 1907, when they finished building the ski hill at the Fox River Grove location.
The club initially opened exclusively for Norwegians. Many would travel on train from Chicago, throw their skis out the train window near Fox River Grove, stop at the Cary station and then pick up their equipment on the walk toward the club, Sedivec said.
“They were a hearty bunch,” he said.